Franklin Countys First News

‘Unlocking the Wood From Its Silence’: Wilton man crafts handmade guitars

Bill Russo hangs a handmade guitar in his workshop in Wilton.

WILTON - On a sunny hill on the outskirts of Wilton, Bill Russo pieces together guitars from some of the rarest wood in the world. Species like Brazilian and Madagascar Rosewood - types that you need special permits to buy - have served as the foundation for Russo's handcrafted guitars.

"I had to build a lot of mediocre guitars to get to where I am today. It's an amazing process," Russo said. "I've always told myself it would take 500 to get really, really good at it. I'm a little over 400 now."

Russo has crafted guitars for the likes of Rex Fowler, Tom Dean and Denny Brooks, to name a few. But claims to fame aren't why he's in the business.

"I don't want to feel that typical hamster on the wheel thing," he said. "It's a business, but it's still my passion."

Bill Russo's guitar workshop.

Building guitars wasn't what Russo ever set out specifically to do. He learned wood working from an uncle, and fell in love with the process of building houses. Playing music was a hobby, but it wasn't his drive.

"We need each other," he said, referring to luthiers and musicians. "One can't exist without the other."

Making instruments was born out of knowing he couldn't do carpentry forever. Roofing and construction was taxing, and Russo knew he needed to find something else to "finish things out." Being a luthier is taxing in its own way however, he said, mostly mentally as he tries to find the balance of beauty and playability in each piece. A friend of his refers to it as "unlocking the wood from its silence," and Russo has worked with that motto for the last 20 years.

In addition to making, Russo also does repairs and offers classes to the community. People come from across the country to take his week-long intensive workshop that actually sends students away with their own hand-built guitar. More recently he's partnered with local colleges to offer the course for credit. Russo said teaching others makes him a better builder, and offers the chance to spread the love of the fine craft.

"Sometimes I have to pinch myself," he said. "It's a business, but I love it just as much now as the day I started."

For more information about Russo's business click here.

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6 Responses »

  1. Breakthrough of the day "What's a "luthier"?

    Nice Story

  2. An artist AND a gentleman! Bill builds the most beautiful guitars I have ever seen - in person. I mean stunning! and the sound is incomparable. And, more than that, his modest demeanor and willingness to sit down with a campfire-strummer like me is as rare as the guitars he crafts. He has tweaked my my old guitars to perfection. If you have a guitar that needs some professional love, call Bill!

  3. Hey, this is the type of article we need more of. How about the Bulldog and readers do more of these
    Stories about people in the area with special talents, or places, or adventure, etc. I like the hiking/paddling
    stories from Mr. Dunlap too. Seems like there may be many possibilities in the area. It's nice to read these
    positive articles. Thanks for giving us a happy read!!!

  4. A person who make string instruments is a "luthier".

  5. Who is Denny Brooks? I believe the writer may have meant Denny Breau.

  6. I agree that this type of feature is great. It's great to learn about the unique people and businesses that make up our community. Would love to learn about more!